Robert Riener

Since 2003, Robert Riener has been the professor for Sensory-Motor Systems at the Institute of Robotics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and professor of medicine at the University Hospital Balgrist. He obtained his diploma in mechanical engineering in 1993 and doctorate in biomedical engineering in 1997, both from TU München, Germany. Professor Riener has published more than 400 peer-reviewed articles, 20 book chapters and filed 25 patents. He is also the inventor and initiator of the CYBATHLON sports event for para athletes using cutting-edge assistive technology.

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Largest competition for users and developers of technical-assistance devices

The largest technically assisted competition for people with disabilities is Cybathlon, a championship designed to promote the development of new and improved assistive technologies. The event is organized in partnership with Swiss university ETH Zurich, and is held every four years. The 2016 edition, held on 8 Oct, attracted 66 teams from as far afield as China and Brazil. The competition is designed to foster close collaboration between engineering teams and people with disabilities. It was the idea of ETH Zurich roboticist Professor Robert Riener, who had observed that university engineering labs spent a lot of time on assistive technology without producing viable products. The main reason for this failure was that these teams did not seek the input of people with disabilities during the development process, and so often came up with designs that were elegant but that didn't address people's real-world problems. Cybathlon uses an entertaining competitive format to inspire innovative new approaches and more user-friendly design.